What is Virtualization and How Does it Benefit Businesses

Ever thought to yourself, what in the world are they talking about? Me too, friend, me too. After 5 years of teaching, learning about the multitudes of different tech talks (some with the same acronyms even) had my head spinning. Hearing the word "virtualization" and realizing it's a subset of the cloud was a game changer for me but it got me thinking: why in the world don't we just say "migrating to the cloud" or something easy like that? Like so many things, the answer isn't so simple. So to help you out (and myself, clearly), we have 5 analogies you can use to help conceptualize and explain virtualization.

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization can be a difficult topic to explain. Essentially, it’s the creation of a virtual, cloud-based network, storage, or server instead of an on-premise “real one.” You separate the software layer from the hardware layer, while placing a new layer between them to act as a liaison. This is often down through using a cloud environment to create a secure, off-premise network for your to access your data. You then have access to your data anywhere and at any time with added layers of security to protect your sensitive information. Curious the pros and cons of on-premise or cloud solutions? We've got a blog for that, too. 

Still, the above definition is watered down and simplistic in nature. There are lots of other aspect of creating a virtual network like Backup and Disaster Recovery or clean copies of data. Explaining what virtualization is can be challenging, but we developed five analogies to help you create a better mental picture.

Where do we begin? It all starts with a flight simulator.

The Flight Simulator 

The first analogy we’ll use requires a flight simulator. A flight simulator, both for regular PC games or an official training facility, is a software designed to emulate the experience of being a flight pilot. The software provides all of the systems and features of a real plane.  In other words, you simulate watching the fuel gauges, the engine status, navigation, airspeed, altitude, wind speed, etc. However, no matter how real the simulation is, you are never in charge of a real airplane.

The simulator delivers the experience of flight without being in the physical body of an airplane.

Virtualization works in the same way. When you control the software of the simulator, the software responds independently of controlling the hardware of a real airplane. With virtualization, you can interact with the software (Windows, Mac, or Linux) independent of the hardware it’s being run on. The virtual layer between the software and the computer hardware allows you to make the computer believe it's the real thing, the same way a flight simulator gets tricked thinking it’s letting you fly a real plane.


With the flight simulator analogy, you have to assume that only one software install (Windows) is running on one piece of hardware (the PC or endpoint). That means it matches one software layer with one hardware layer, which hardly seems practical.

Imagine that all software are riders, and all hardware are a type of vehicle. A motorcycle would be the equivalent of a laptop or PC. Servers are the equivalent of a car. Although each car can comfortably seat three to five riders, many cars on the road carry only one.

What is virtualization in this situation? It's like a carpool: servers, like a car, are capable of carrying greater capacity beyond a single rider. Virtualization takes the drivers (the software) from the different cars (servers), and lets them all ride in a single car. Each layer of software then operates independently of their original “car.” Essentially, more data and storage in one server. 

  • SUVs in the Carpool Lane: Get more with VMware
    BUT WAIT, there's more! A host server with virtualization, like our partner VMware, is more of an SUV with the high-powered engine. It has a powerful, high capacity, but if it only had one software inside of it, it would be the equivalent of a rider driving alone in a large SUV. The server is powerful, and it’s capable of carrying the entire family (plus the dog). It would be a shame not to use it to its full potential.

    Virtualization works by tricking the SUV driver into thinking he’s only driving a smaller car. The driver (the software) thinks it’s been paired with a certain type of vehicle (hardware), even though he’s still riding the same SUV (he is, clearly, very sensitive to suggestion). VMware takes it even further by getting MORE drivers into the same SUV and telling the highly-suggestive drivers the same lie. Each individual driver thinks that they are driving their own small car and operating them of their own accord, even though they’re all still riding in the same SUV.


A VMware Bus

VMware takes the analogy another step further. A bus (the host server) is even more powerful than an SUV and capable of carrying more passengers. If the host hardware is even bigger and more powerful, it could house an entire bus-load of highly-suggestive passengers. Even though more than 20 or so individual riders are sitting on a bus, they all think they are driving their own small car. By doing this, you maximize the usage of your servers, using them to their full potential.

More people online, same destination, better and more efficient output overall! 

The Train

Specific to VMware, their high availability makes them the train in this prolonged vehicle analogy. A train is powerful, can take multiple cars, and the passengers can move freely between the cars without stopping the train. You can even allocate or limit specific passengers to specific parts of the train to spread them out. Likewise, VMware’s high availability allows you to move virtual software around freely without stopping any function to the hardware itself.

Like a high speed train, virtualization delivers its passengers with high capacity and high speeds.

The Benefits of Virtualization 

Transportation analogies aside, virtualization is the network infrastructure of the future. It has proven, over the years, to be the most efficient way to handle business' infrastructure.

We can summarize the benefits of how virtualization works as follows:

  • Energy Efficiency and Scalability
    Because more people can work on the same server regardless of their location, your business will receive increased output so you can accomplish every business goal in your gameplan. This cloud solution's high availability also allows you to access your data wherever, whenever! Furthermore, since your network is no longer physical, you don't have to worry about the cost of cooling or requirements for "heat" across your desktops. 
  • Server Consolidation for Ease of Management
    Reduce your physical (and therefore financial) footprint. Additional benefits include moving from clunky, on-premise infrastructures to a cloud based one so you're only having to manage one system across multiple virtual desktops, not chained to the one in your office. Because there are no traditional, physical servers to worry about, you're saving money both on the hardware itself as well as the maintenance. Win win! 
  • Easier Backups, Restorations, and Server Recovery 
    Because your infrastructure is virtual, your data is easier to backup. We recommend a 3-2-1 model either way (3 copies of your data, stored in 2 separate locations or types of media, with one 1 of those copies being stored offsite).


Do you have additional questions about virtualization? Contact Centre Technologies today to find out what creating a virtual network can do for your business.

Originally published on July 5, 2023

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About the Author

Emily Kirk Emily Kirk

Creative content writer and producer for Centre Technologies. I joined Centre after 5 years in Education where I fostered my great love for making learning easier for everyone. While my background may not be in IT, I am driven to engage with others and build lasting relationships on multiple fronts. My greatest passions are helping and showing others that with commitment and a little spark, you can understand foundational concepts and grasp complex ideas no matter their application (because I get to do it every day!). I am a lifelong learner with a genuine zeal to educate, inspire, and motivate all I engage with. I value transparency and community so lean in with me—it’s a good day to start learning something new! Learn more about Emily Kirk »

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